Aircrews from the 28th Bomb Wing at Ellsworth Air Force Base, S.D., took off on their long-range, long-duration Bomber Task Force mission to conduct interoperability training throughout Europe and the Black Sea region.
Training with NATO allies and theater partner nations contributes to enhanced resiliency and interoperability and enables coalition forces to build enduring relationships necessary to confront global challenges.
Ellsworth Air Force Base added another “first-ever” to its long list of accomplishments when two of its B-1B Lancers integrated with Ukrainian Su-27 Flankers and MiG-29 Fulcrums, and Turkish KC-135 Stratotankers during a long-range, long-duration Dynamic Force Employment mission throughout Europe and the Black Sea region.
The B-1s also integrated with Polish F-16 Fighting Falcons and MiG-29s, and Romanian F-16s and MiG-21s providing escort and combat patrol over watch in the Black Sea region. The B-1 bombers also joined Greek F-16s for an air policing overflight of Skopje, North Macedonia, during the non-stop mission that spanned more than 29 hours and over 12,200 nautical miles.
In addition to assuring NATO allies and world partners and deterring aggression, Col. David Doss, 28th Bomb Wing commander, said the well-orchestrated mission clearly demonstrates Ellsworth AFB’s ability to respond to any potential crisis or challenge around the globe.
“This mission proves without question that our B-1s and the men and women that support, maintain and fly them are ready to respond to global events–any time, anywhere,” Doss said. “It doesn’t matter if we are at home, in the beautiful Black Hills, or stationed abroad; we will always be ready when our nation calls.”
British, Turkish and American KC-135s based out of Incirlik Air Base, Turkey, Royal Air Force Mildenhall, United Kingdom, and other NATO aerial refueling aircraft enabled Ellsworth AFB B-1s to complete the mission while also providing aerial refueling support to our partner-nation aircraft.
Doss attributes the success of this mission and others the base has conducted in the Pacific and European theaters to a multitude of things but all tying back to the same theme: teamwork.
“That is what it takes to conduct the outstanding work and accomplish the achievements seen over the last month,” Doss said. “Whether at Ellsworth (AFB), or at the air operations centers that support these missions, or with our sister services, allies and partners … none of this would be possible without teamwork.”
Upon their return to base, maintenance personnel conducted post-flight activities and specialists gathered data from the aircrews.
“Pure gratification,” said Senior Master Sgt. Daniel Youngblood, 28th Aircraft Maintenance Squadron lead production superintendent. “It’s amazing to see the efforts more than 330 Airmen put forth to carry out any task asked of them.”
He was quick to add that like any high-performance team, communication is the key to mission success.
“Airmen want to know the ‘why,’” Youngblood said. “They know they have a job to do and the ‘why’ gives them purpose and keeps them focused. Taking time to do that and having a well thought-out plan helps keep them moving forward … and everyone’s eye on the finish line.”
Youngblood added that everyone tied to generating the aircraft have done remarkably well and continue to accomplish great things even with the extra challenges brought on by the COVID-19 pandemic.
“Social distancing has resulted in huge changes in the maintenance community, especially on the flightline,” he said. “We have had to develop B-1 specific and tool decontamination procedures, slim down on shifts and learn to maintain operations with minimal capabilities.”
Youngblood said that the aircraft maintenance unit went from Airmen operating on three shifts to spreading the same number of Airmen among six shifts, limiting large gatherings of professionals who work on the B-1.